SUBMITTED BY KATHY RENWALD
The 1858 lighthouse and lightkeeper’s cottage at the entrance to Hamilton harbour will be restored thanks to support from three levels of government, and tireless work by citizens dedicated to preserving these rare landmarks. Hamilton, CEO of the Hamilton and Oshawa Port Authority (HOPA) confirmed ownership of the lighthouse and cottage has been transferred from the federal government to HOPA. The 55-foot stone lighthouse was last operational in 1961, the lightkeepers cottage was last occupied in 1991, by the last of five lightkeepers.
The restoration plan requires that the 1,000-ton lighthouse be moved about 100 metres to port authority land. The move is expected to cost about $1 million dollars according to Bill Fitzgerald, VP of operations at the port. The move will put some distance between the lighthouse and the control tower used to operate the lift bridge. It will make for easier public access to the lighthouse, and take the heritage structure off federal government property.
The Beach Canal Lighthouse Group have been toiling for twenty years to protect the two structures from irreparable decay. Today’s announcement “was a dream come true,” said Ian Kerr Wilson of BCLG. As a long-time city of Hamilton heritage resource manager, Kerr Wilson was involved in early preservation talk for the lighthouse and cottage. “What I think is the real significance of the site is that it is a tangible link between the two communities,” Kerr Wilson said.
In fact, the restoration of the lighthouse and lightkeepers cottage is a first step in a development plan that would see HOPA create public amenities on both the Burlington and Hamilton side of the canal. The plans for parks, plazas and pop-up shops would make the area a tourist destination.
Investigative work has begun on moving the lighthouse according to Fitzgerald. A specialty mover will be required, a new foundation put in place, and the 100-metre pathway for the journey must be stabilized for the safe transportation of the rare limestone block lighthouse. Work may be starting after the spring thaw. Larissa Fenn, public affairs specialist for HOPA said the plan is to repair the lighthouse beacon to working order. Both the cottage and lighthouse will be open to the public after restoration and plans for programming the spaces finalized.
The Burlington Canal opened in 1832, and transformed the future for moving goods from Hamilton harbour to ports around the world. The lighthouse and lightkeeper’s cottage were both designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1996. In listing their importance, the OHA stated that they remained the only intact structures linked to Hamilton’s mid-19th century port functions.